I pulled the clean sheets across the bed and smoothed the wrinkles with my hand. I was careful to avoid tucking the ends beneath the mattress. They hung low past the bottom of the bed frame.
I parachuted the antique quilt over the free-flowing sheets and it completed my daily chore. The quilt was a gift from my great grandmother. Before she died, she had instructed to my father that he give it to me on my wedding day. Nine years later I was walking down the aisle in a black gown. Graduation was the event that prompted my father to give me the handmade gift. He swore if he waited until I married, I would never get the quilt. The joke was ironic.
I brought the quilt with me to college where it stayed always neat atop my tiny dorm bed. One day, at the start of my first semester when the air was still warm, I found myself sitting cross-legged on the quilt with a beautiful, blue eyed sophomore boy. My cheeks filled with color and I hoped the pink squares on my grandmother’s quilt would serve as camouflage for my nervous demeanor. The boy was 6′ 2″ and gentle, with a smile that assured me that I could always trust him.
And from that day forward, I did. A day later he kissed me. A year later he gave me a ring. I picked out a lace dress with pearly beads stitched into the hems. I gave my life and every ounce of my love to the boy with the blue eyes. Every sacrifice I made reflected the deep, undeniable desire within myself to give him everything I could. I needed him to know he was needed.
Soon we shared a home and a bed. Every morning I would pull the sheets across the mattress and tuck them under to make the cleanest spread I could. He asked me sweetly in his gentle voice if I would stop tucking the sheets at the end. Our full-sized bed was not quite long enough for my 6′ 2″ blue-eyed boy, he needed room at the end because his feet poked out a little at the end. I couldn’t imagine changing the way I made my bed. For years, just like my grandmother taught me, I would pull the sheets tight and tuck. But his deep blue eyes were impossible to deny. From then on, I would pull the sheets across the bed and let them dangle past the bottom of the frame.
It was worth every night spent next to him. I could hold him close and all of my broken pieces would stick back together. Women prayed to God for a man like mine. I finally knew what love really meant.
Many mornings passed and I kept the bed and the sheets straight and the pillows fluffed. My father’s heart became mine, and I saw myself filling with anxiety. Life doesn’t stay neat like my sheets do.
But God, if I was in control of my life at all, my sheets would stay straight.
I screamed in the kitchen and I cried in the floor. I needed order and I didn’t know how to get it. The boy with the blue eyes held me and I cried. He was calm, as always. I couldn’t stand it and I didn’t know why. I envied him for his grace. His ring weighed down my finger and I thought it was surely bound to break. I took the tiny gold circle and placed it in my jewelry box. My life was not linear. I was a crumpled up blanket at the foot of the bed. I hadn’t been washed in weeks and my strings were unraveling. I had no control of my life. I prayed for the grace of my man and I envied him.
He asked me why I didn’t wear my ring. I told him it was too big. At night I wrapped myself in the sheets and turned away from him. The next day he slept at his brother’s place. I sat in the floor of our tiny apartment and asked myself why it had come to this.
I touched my soft, pale green sheets and tears welled up from within. I pulled the sheets back and closed my eyes. He pressed me into the them hard and my fragile body trembled. My brain was confused and my heart felt like it had gone somewhere far away. His small gray eyes looked at me as if I were barely there. I felt like a wound and he was like salt. My body didn’t want this and I told him to stop. Stop. No.
He said no. I pulled my legs to my chest and put my foot on his collar bone. He told me he wanted this for a long time. He told me what he wanted tonight. I clutched the sheets and cried.
He left my bed feeling fulfilled. And left me feeling empty. I was a shell. I was worthless. I was dirty. My soul was gone. My sheets were filthy. They smelled like a man I didn’t love.
The tears water-falled down my breasts and thighs. I thought of my blue-eyed love. I missed him. But I had written the ending to that story with the words of another man. After that night I was a corpse. My life was a routine that I fulfilled mindlessly.
God giveth and God taketh away.
All along I had known that my gentle lover was meant for greater things. When he left, I did too. My heart filled with anger. I ripped the dirty sheets off the bed. And I scrubbed them. And I fucking screamed. I cleansed them with soap and tears. The sudsy water baptized those sheets like Jesus and John. When they emerged I had purged them of the sins of my broken self.
I sat alone in my now big, empty apartment. I begged for penance. I pulled the clean sheets across the bed and smoothed the wrinkles with my hand. I was careful to avoid tucking the ends beneath the mattress. They hung low past the bottom of the bed frame.